Socialist Worker

Syrian women defy regime's repression

by Zaher Laham
Issue No. 2253

Women are playing a vital role in the uprising in Syria.

Women go out to demand the release of their sons or husbands, or to demand lifting the sieges imposed on some cities.

For example, the women’s demonstration in Arnous Square in Damascus on 2 May was to lift the siege on the city Daraa.

Many female activists have been arrested in the uprising and some have been tortured.

I talked to one of those activists, Rasha (not her real name).

She is a friend of mine in her mid-20s. She has been arrested twice during the last six weeks.

She agreed to talk about her experience without disclosing her real name because anyone in Syria who talks to the foreign press can be arrested and tried.

Rasha participated in several peaceful protests to demand the release of prisoners of conscience and was involved in securing humanitarian aid to some areas under siege.


In her second arrest a few weeks ago, armed men in a crowded street stopped her.

They asked her to get in the car.

“I refused to comply with their orders until I saw their security IDs.

“They showed their cards very quickly without allowing me to read their names or to know what organisation they belonged to,” Rasha explained.

When she refused to get in the car, they forced her in. “I was abducted at gunpoint in daylight in a crowded street of the capital Damascus,” Rasha said.

On the way to the security centre, they didn’t tell her where they were taking her or why. She was subject to verbal and physical abuse.

When she got to the security centre, the security officer dealt with her cruelly.

She was interrogated for hours without a lawyer, facing constant verbal abuse.

At the end she was asked to sign a false confession.

“I was badly beaten by an officer for refusing to sign the false confession, and threatened with rape,” Rasha added.

Rasha was jailed for 14 days in solitary confinement.

When she insisted that she wouldn’t comply until she talked to her family she was allowed to have a very brief phone call. But this wasn’t until the ninth day.

She constantly heard the screams of people being tortured.

Rasha found the conditions in detention were very poor saying, “Since my release, I have been seeking treatment for problems in my kidneys and the beginning of rheumatology in my knee joints because of the effects of cold and damp in the prison.”

Despite her pain and suffering, Rasha is full of hope that the struggle will bring a better future for her country and people.

People in Syria have shown that, despite repression, they are committed to the success of their fight for justice and freedom.

Zaher Laham is a Syrian activist currently living in Britain

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Tue 24 May 2011, 17:59 BST
Issue No. 2253
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